Sunday, March 27, 2011

yes, lawrence, i know i shoot myself in the foot. . .

Yes, Lawrence, I wish I could book readings in all of the hip independent bookstores all over the country, and it does seem like the natural alliance could or should be between indy publishers and indy stores. And sure, why we're at it, I could or should also wish I were you, Mr. Ferlinghetti, and I guess the lone drawback here is that you're quite a bit older than me, and so perhaps destined to leave this life sooner. Of couse, one could easily twist that into a positive as well.

But my limited experience as a "published author," so far, has shown me that the Indy bookstores in cities don't have a lot of space for a small-press title like Fight for Your Long Day. The shops are small, and they have to stock a lot of mainstream, established stuff they know they can sell, and then they already have their allegiances in place and must help their loyal local author friends and customers, too. And of course, there are just too many millions of books to choose from, so I'm incredibly naive to think any store would put a big stack of my novel near the front door.

In one indy in Philly, I thought I was doing a favor by signing the single copy of my novel in the store, and then I thought I was having a great, engaging conversation with the clerk that would lead to an Ingram order of all Atticus titles in print, at least a single copy of each. But when I returned a few hours later, I was told that they would not be able to commit to such an order or to anything more for my Philly novel. I was disappointed, and even felt some regret that I had signed the copy they had (I know that sounds bad, but it's true). Of course, later in the visit, at another independent, the friendly store owner didn't want me to sign the single copy in case it had to be returned.

Meanwhile, one franchise in Philly that is part of a smaller chain has displayed and already sold 23 copies of Fight for Your Long Day, and in general, the chains are ordering multiple copies--from 5 to 36--and moving them. And they had space for me to sign and read and discuss, and, well, I felt welcome at Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Faber, and I'm very grateful for everything they did for me last week.

Also, how antichain could I possibly be when just after college I worked at a Borders as a seasonal temp. It was the only job I could get in a bad economy years ago, and I then even managed a seasonal remainders-only store a couple years after that. It was part of a smaller chain, National Book Warehouse I believe, and that $8.50 per hour manager's job existed temporarily due to recession (dollar books moved well that holiday season), and it's a sad week because the Borders I worked in is closing and a friend who stayed on there and helped sell books for 20 years could be out of work and of course, the focus there has been on reducing inventory so the store I worked in has never carried my book and never will. In fact, the store will become just another empty husk in another American downtown until another chain, with another kind of product, is crazy enough to try to operate at a profit despite the gigantic overhead, city taxes, etc.

Indy bookstores, and independent brick and mortar stores and restaurants in general, are wonderful, and I wish I could afford to patronize them regularly. Regardless, my saying or not saying this has not helped me gain much shelf space in these stores. I'd love for that to change.

Fight for Your Long Day, Lawrence Ferlinghetti!

1 comment:

xli said...

Read this post so that you may have some idea what is happening to the Chinese publishing industry.

FYI: Han Han is a well-known writer in China and Robin Li is the CEO of Baidu, the leading Chinese search engine.

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